A while ago I wrote about exposure issues when photographing both the sky and ground. I am sure that you know that unlike our eye, a camera cannot expose for both the sky and ground. The sky is usually a lot brighter than the ground so if you set the exposure for the sky, the ground will be underexposed. And if you expose for the ground, the sky will be overexposed. I discussed a way to overcome those difficulties in How to Take a Photo of the Sun. You probably wonder what that post has to do with food photography? Well, I came across a similar photography condition this week as I was taking a photo of 4th of July cupcakes: the chocolate cupcakes base was quite dark while the icing on top was very bright. So, do I expose for the bottom or the top? I decided to expose for the bottom to have the chocolate part right… But how did I get correct exposure of the white icing too? The answer follows…
First of all, I like food photos to be realistic without much editing, fake effects, etc. When I say ‘much editing’ I actually mean bad editing. We know that editing is unavoidable; especially when shooting RAW files that need some sharpening regardless of how you shoot and when it comes to food I prefer unobtrusive editing… the kind of editing that does not attract attention to the editing process itself but draws you into the photo to enjoy (viewing) the food.
So, much editing and bad editing are very different. Even if you edit the photo a lot, it can still be done very well and could result in nice photos. On the other hand, if you do just a bit of inappropriate editing the result will probably be bad editing. I use two editing trick to fix the exposure in Photoshop; one is complex but still right for food photos, and the other one is simple.
I described the first way that requires the use of Camera Raw (ACR), masks and layers here. And the second way, the super simple way to fix the exposure is by using Shadows/ Highlights tool in Photoshop.
2. Change Shadows settings to zero (0) and increase the Highlights settings to numbers that match your photo needs the best. For me, these numbers worked the best:
This will recover the highlights in your overexposed image. So simple, isn’t it?
On the left, we have the photo with overexposed icing and on the right we have the same photo with highlights fixed in Photoshop. Changing highlights settings allowed us to fix the exposure and bring out the icing texture more.
I told you it’s super simple! Now you tell me do you have any trick when it comes to exposing for difficult objects?